Only six tight ends had more receiving yards than Philadelphia's Brent Celek last season, and he posted the second-best numbers of his career across the board.
Despite his slow start, Celek finished the year with 62 receptions for 811 yards and five touchdowns, as his season was much different after the bye than before it.
In the six games before the Eagles' bye week last year, Celek had 13 yards or fewer in four of those games. During that six-game span, he had a total of only 13 receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown.
As a comparison, there were a total of 121 games in which a player had at least 115 yards last year. Or if you just look at the first six weeks of the season, someone had at least as many receiving yards as Celek's six-game total in just one game 52 times.
After the bye, however, Celek was a much different player from a fantasy perspective.
In those 10 games, Celek had 49 receptions for 696 yards and four scores. If he maintained those averages over a full season, Celek would have finished with 78 catches for 1,114 yards. If he had finished with 1,114 yards, that would have been enough for the 15th-best performance all-time for a tight end.
Not only did he finish strong in his final 10 games, Celek was even better in the final three weeks. In each of those three games, he scored a touchdown and had a reception of at least 30 yards. He had 13 receptions for 294 yards and three scores during that span.
Although Celek had offseason surgeries for his sports hernia and torn labrum, Bob Grotz of The Times Herald wrote the following last month about Celek: "Watching Celek practice this spring, hit the sled, run patterns and catch there’s no hint of post-surgery sluggishness. He says he’s bigger and feels faster than the guy who hit the finish line last January."
Celek has seen his targets fluctuate quite a bit over the past three seasons. He ranked ninth among tight ends and tied for 50th among all players in targets (96) last year, which was roughly in the middle of his totals in 2010 (78) and 2009 (112).
The presence of all of the other weapons within the Eagles offense, including Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, etc., means that Celek is unlikely to see his targets increase sharply in 2012. With his ability to create mismatches, however, I expect them to hold steady around last year's total.
(Strength of) Schedule
Based on the cumulative fantasy points allowed to tight ends last year by all of the Eagles' opponents this year, Celek and Eagles' tight ends have the 12th-most favorable schedule from a fantasy perspective and 10th-most favorable in the fantasy postseason (Weeks 14-16).
Celek has lots of positive momentum heading into the 2012 season. There are a few tight ends that are being drafted in the double-digit rounds, on average in Yahoo! leagues, that have the potential of being a bargain in fantasy leagues, and Celek is one of them. While I like Jacob Tamme as well, I have Celek ranked higher, and he's going two rounds later on average than Tamme.
Only 27 years old, Celek is just entering his prime and has had two solid seasons in the past three years. Assuming his targets don't fluctuate as much as they have in the past few seasons, Celek is an underrated value. Like in redraft leagues, Celek has the potential to be a TE1 but is being drafted as high-end TE2.
Projection: 65 Receptions, 855 Yards and 5 TDs
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